IPWEA NZ President and Asset Advisory Principal at Beca, Priyani de Silva-Currie reflects on whether Aotearoa New Zealand is truly ready for a circular economy.

Three years ago I was fortunate to speak at the international AITF conference in France on social housing reform in New Zealand and its impact on circular economy principles.  There was much interest from the audience on then New Zealand’s first Wellbeing Budget announcement which focused on investment that captured the four wellbeing pillars.

Roll forward three years and I wonder if we are really ready for a new discussion and change in the way we manage our products and services, businesses, environment and asset base.  Our traditional linear economy deals squarely with creation, lifecycle management and disposal principles, with optimal cost and asset efficiency at its heart.

A circular economy is a holistic approach based on principles of resilience and sustainability.

A circular economy is a holistic approach based on principles of resilience and sustainability, and taking into account our uniquely cultural considerations, economic levers, natural regeneration systems, waste and pollution minimisation and the life cycle of materials from source through life.  The former is ‘easy’ to measure, monitor and manage; the latter is much harder to qualify and quantify.

Thankfully in New Zealand we are starting on the right track, we have started our decarbonisation journey.  That is an important part of a circular economy, but we need further investment into quantifying social and cultural impact measurement, measuring footprints and handprints.  Until leaders and influencers can see and understand clearly, consistently, and easily the true impact of our activities, assets, products and services, we are really just making a well-meaning stab in the dark.

Can we learn and see guidance from other economies who are reaching high in this space for the betterment of society and our planet?

I truly hope so.